Beyond the Smith Commission

21 November 2014

Martin's reflections on moving beyond the Smith Commission

While we did not awake to an independent Scotland on the 19th September, we certainly awoke to a country still uncomfortable in its skin - especially in those communities experiencing profound inequality and deprivation. The ask of the Smith Commission has been one of my most intense but rewarding pieces of work where I engaged with many of our members to develop proposals for further devolution from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament.


Smith Commission


In what seemed to be ‘in the bat of an eye’ (compared to the referendum campaign!), I have had to link these proposals to the experiences and lives of Scotland’s 1.3 million volunteers -who undertake roles in every community, in all sectors and who bring about significant individual and community benefit to Scotland every day...and that ain’t an easy feat!

In our response to the Commission we wanted to make it clear to all its members that volunteers are:


  • Activists - passionate about their cause, as volunteers you make a difference by changing society and culture to create a modern Scotland that promotes equality and by supporting community activities defined by the lived experiences of those communities.
  • Community leaders - spanning all aspects of our society such as campaigning for or against service changes and vocalising their communities’ experience and needs. Volunteer leaders have a special role in empowering communities; their drive and passion encourages and inspires others to get involved and transforms their communities.

  • Community helpers - often little recognised but who provide substantial daily/weekly help to individuals and communities contributing a wide range of skills and experience. Volunteers recognise the need for community cohesion beyond their front door and show a way forward for an engaged Scottish society.


From Activists, to Leaders, to Helpers:

In the weeks leading up to the referendum and since then we’ve had thousands of activists expressing opinions on the challenges we face,such as child poverty and social isolation; all wanting to challenge government on how they approach these profound problems. What we need to ask ourselves now is how we shift this voluntary effort of activism and all its energy and enthusiasm for change into voluntary effort that can lead and provide practical help for people and communities:


  • How can we change the immediate circumstances of the 1 in 4 kids in areas of Glasgow living in poverty?
  • How can we reduce the impact of social isolation felt by many of our neighbours?

  • How can we tap into and encourage the 72% of people who don’t volunteer to help their community?


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